Do Bilinguals Dream in Multiple Languages?
September 21, 2023
Recent studies have shed light on how bilingualism and multilingualism influence our dreams. While limited in scope, these intriguing studies have found that even individuals with basic proficiency in a second language occasionally experience dreams in that language.
But here's an interesting fact. You don't have to be bilingual to dream in another language. In fact, dreaming in a language you've just started to learn is quite common. It can signify your deep immersion in the new language and a growing internalization of its vocabulary.
Bilingual individuals often have the unique ability to dream in both of the languages they speak. Their dreams may seamlessly transition from one language to another shifting between languages based on their interactions. Researchers think the content of your dream may influence dream language as it unfolds.
Dream psychologists, specifically neuroscientists, speculate that this phenomenon occurs because the prefrontal area of the brain that is responsible for reality checks is deactivated during dreams. So it's possible that proficiency is enhanced by dreams or that the absence of self-judgment creates a false perception of language fluence.
Multilingual dreams are a fascinating enigma...
Limited research has been conducted on the link between bilingualism, multilingualism, and dreams, but the findings are intriguing. Even people with basic proficiency in a second language say they occasionally dream in that language and sometimes appear to be highly proficient during the dream state. Some individuals report dreaming in languages they do not speak or understand, yet somehow are able to fully comprehend the meaning in their dreams.
At times, dreams can accurately reflect the language and cultural context of the dreamer. For instance, an Italian native speaker may dream of conversing with loved ones in Italian. Such dreams can be an extension of waking experiences using more familiar linguistic patterns. Dreams about emotional matters may occur more often in the dreamer's native language, while dreams centered around practical, abstract, or work-related topics occur in the second language.
Unraveling the mysteries of dreams and their connection to language has been a challenging endeavor for scientists. Some individuals have described dreaming in languages they have no knowledge of in their waking life. These dreams involve hearing or speaking an unfamiliar language, yet comprehension of their meaning is somehow achieved. This intriguing occurrence suggests that dreams tap into a deeper level of consciousness, where language barriers may simply evaporate.
How Dreams Defy Linguistic Constraints
Universal and transcendent, dreams enable direct communication beyond the boundaries of language. As it turns out, our thoughts can operate independently of language, even when we are fluent in multiple tongues. So, dreams may truly be a doorway to a unique language that could connect the global village. Experts say your dreams may take differing form but reflect who you are, what you need, and what you believe, such as:
1) Dreams can transcend language – Much of your dream experiences are nonverbal and communication occurs through symbols, images and emotions that rely on visual, auditory and sensory cues. You can even dream in fictional conlangs.
2) Dreams can have sequels – Although most dreams seem unconnected to one another, some continue the same or similar theme from one to another. Multilingual dreamers may draw on the same dream-specific memory system used when constructing your dream scenarios.
3) Dreams can occur in a foreign language – Multilingual dreams might arise from your recent exposure to bilingual environments. Even if you don’t actually speak the language, your subconscious can incorporate bilingual or multilingual elements into your dreams.
4) Dreams can be mysterious – By definition dreaming is an oneiric experience that often feels magical and exciting with surreal landscapes. Bilinguals have reported speaking multiple languages fluently in their dreams when they are not fluent in those languages during waking hours.
5) Dreams can create perplexing experiences – Multilingual dreaming can sometimes leave a waking person baffled by moments of lucidity when they wonder why everyone was speaking fluently in an array of different tongues or interchangeably as a polyglot mix.
6) Dream can draw from a collective unconscious – According to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, part of your human psyche contains information shared by your ancestors as simple figures and relationships, such as a dream about being chased by an unidentifiable figure.
Interestingly, your brain can hold onto language memories for longer than you might expect. While dreaming in a language you're currently learning may not be too surprising, dreaming in a language you haven't practiced or have no knowledge of can feel incredibly strange. Even if you only learned a few phrases in a secondary language in the past, your brain might be accessing hidden memories of that language, even from long ago.
Bilingual dreams are inherently magical and enchanting, as they are created in a realm where languages intertwine and communication knows no boundaries. Native languages are normally stored on the left side of the brain, while languages learned later in life are stored on the right side. But, it is possible that during dreamtime, your brain can freely connect to both. Unveiling the secrets of bilingual dreaming opens up a world of possibilities to be part of your own unique cultural community.